In the spring of 2010, I walked into The New York Times and proposed that the paper blog the Civil War. Out of that grew the Disunion series, which from October 30, 2010 until last week did just that–wote about the war, in matters great and small, generally corresponding to the events of that day 150 years before. Before the series ended nearly 1000 posts later, literally dozens of contributors, famous historians and civilian researchers alike, combined to cover the war.”`Disunion’ has been like no other intellectual or journalistic enterprise I’m aware of: a sustained five-year conversation among dozens of historians (academic and not) representing every specialty and viewpoint,” wrote historian and series contributor Adam Goodheart. “It was a conversation that included an even broader and more diverse public around the world. It brought leading scholars and laypeople together in ways that I think have never been equaled. It truly serves as a model for those in many other fields who aspire to be “public intellectuals” , not to mention enduring as a resource for educators, students, and scholars. Just a remarkable achievement.” Much credit and thanks belongs to the Times, especially editors Clay Risen and Geeorge Kalogerakis. To conclude the series, the Times assembled –in their words–“an all-star cast of Disunion contributors and friends: David Blight, Ken Burns, Adam Goodheart and Jamie Malanowski”–to respond to readers’ questions. Here is that discussion, in which I was very proud to have participated.
On Thursday night, we were one small strike away from having viewed a future Yankees Classic. A Magical Mystery Tour of a six-run seventh brought the Yankees all the way back from a dispiriting 7-2 deficit to the loathsome Red Sox, and suddenly we were up 8-7 with Robertson ready to pitch the eighth and Rivera to pitch the ninth, and thus redeem himself from blowing the save in July that Molly had brought me to. Well, just as Ichico, Wells, Granderson, Gardner, Jeter and Overbay had done, Robertson got the Sox out in the eighth. When Mo retired the first two outs in the ninth, one of whom was the fierce David Ortiz, we began to yelp and cheer, but then the Sox had a single, a stolen base, an error, and a broken bat single, and suddenly the Great Rivera had blown another save, and the roaring ninth inning stadium–the experience for which I had paid my money–fell into embarrassed silence. Nothing to say, other than it was an exciting game. But who wants to see an exciting game? I wanted to see a win! I wanted to exit Yankee Stadium with a victorious spring in my step, singing `New York, New York.’ Oh well, another day. It was great to hang with my old Spy buddy George Kalogerakis, though. (Pictures: Top, Rivera, backed by Rodriquez and Jeter, delivers; Middle, me and George; Bottom, Rivera pitches to Big Papi.)
With a lovely party at the handsome Greenwich Village apartment of Times editor rish Hall, editors George Kalogerakis and Clay Risen of the Opinionator section, a number of their colleagues, and a bunch of us who contributed to the paper’s Disunion series, celebrated the publication of Disunion, a collection of articles from the series, published by Black Dog and Leventhal. Two of my pieces appear, and George mentioned me in the acknowledgements. In the words of Van Morrison, that’s all I want, that’s all I need, I’m satisfied.
. . .although talking about fighting might be best of all. I had a great time last night moderating a TimesTalk discussion at, natch, The New York Times, on the subject of Disunion and the Civil War. I had an excellent panel to work with–Adam Goodheart, a Disunion series mainstay and author of a new book entitled 1861; the historian and author David Blight of Yale, whose easy erudition was remarkably impressive; and Ken Burns, the peerless documentary film maker, who was incisive and perceptive and commanding. All I had to do was to remember to keep passing the ball. The nearly full house seemed to enjoy the event very much. I have to say I was especially impressed with David’s comments about how America’s insistence on the idea of progress and of its own exceptionalism has created an interpretation of the Civil War as something that resolved issues and that sprung us into a glorious future, and which has prevented us from understanding the war as a terrible tragedy. He said something to effect that the Civil War marked the end of the first American republic, which failed and had to be replaced; and the the civil rights movements marked the end of the second American republic, which had been created by the Civil War, and which failed and had to be replaced. Kind of a brilliant assessment. Afterwards, we went to a restaurant called 441/2 on 10th Avenue, to help Adam celebrate the publication of his book. The food was good and the company delightful. A really great evening. (Top: Adam, me, Clay Risen of the Times, David, Ken, and my pal George Kalogerakis of the Times. Along the left: George and Clay; Timeswomen Snigdha Koirala of exotic Nepal and Whitney Dangerfield of exotic West Virginia; historian and Disunion contributor Ted Widmer toasts Adam.)
In town to visit old buddy George Kalogerakis and the gang at The New York Times who will be working on our Civil War blog.
Trawling through photo albums last week, I found these wonderful pictures. Left, Kurt and Kate Andersen; above, George Kalogerakis, Rachel Urquhart, Spike and Graydon Carter. Below left, Molly Malanowski and me. These three photos were taken in 1989 at Kurt’s place in Putnam County. Below right, Molly, earlier that same year, in our apartment in Inwood.
. . .on the roof of the famous Puck Building, much of the staff of Spy assembled. These were friends of mine. Photos by Julie Mihaly, courtesy Natasha Lessink. In the top picture, Constance Drayton, Cindy Arlinsky, John Brodie, Ben Svetkey, Rachel Urquhart, George Kalagerakis, Elissa Schappell, Kurt Andersen, Cynthia Cotts, Joe Mastrianni, Graydon Carter, Amy Stark, Tom Phillips, Alexander Isley, Natasha Lessnik Tibbott, Geoff Reiss, Walter Monheit, Tad Friend. Below: John Brodie, Cynthia Cotts, Amy Stark, Natasha Lessnik Tibbott, Elissa Schappell, George Kalagerakis, Tom Phillips, Kurt Andersen.
It was one of those good days, a mood changer. Went down to Chelsea to sign some papers for Joe Cilibrasi, and then decided to grab some lunch in a barbecue joint, and right at the next table was my friend Sharon Jautz, the former head of HR at Playboy, now blonde and tan and despectacled and, literally, unrecognizable, at least at first. Went uptown to The New York Times and had a very nice meeting with Frank Rich, who was very gracious and generous with his time and encouraging. His 13th floor office has windows that face west, and his blinds go up and down automatically–highly distracting, although I guess you get used to it. Before I left, I was able to visit the cubicle of my friend George Kalogerakis; we commiserated about the state of things. Strolled uptown. Got the new Derek Jeter figure at Toys R Us, window-shopped at the NHL store on Sixth (not as much product as the NBA store, and nowhere near as much imagination or pizzazz), had a frappaccino and read the Financial Times at the Starbucks in Trump Tower, and went over to the Sony Building to a screening of a terrific new movie called An Education, directed by Lone Scherfig from a screenplay by Nick Hornby based on a memoir by the English journalist Lynn Barber, with terrific performances by Peter Sarsgaard, Rosamund Pike, Dominic Cooper, Alfred Molina, Olivia Williams, and especially the very winsome Carey Mulligan (we will be seeing lots more of her). The sixties looked smashing: chic, smart, sophisticated. (Does no one wish to look like that today?) When it was over, walked down Madison to Grand Central with my iPod on, singing out loud with the Ramones (It’s Not My Place.) No one seemed to notice. Unaccountably, I felt happy. (Pictures: a subway car has been given over to an advertisement for Jerry Bruckheimer‘s new TNT series Dark Blue, making it look like the very thing the Transit Authority struggled for so many years to clean up; Harry Potter dominates the Times Square subway station; a window in Bergdorf Goodman has been given over to to Divine, courtesy of Baltimore’s American Visionary Arts Museum; girls in their summer dresses, heading south on Madison.)
Investigative reporter John Connolly and his friend
Dorothy Caravello, radio hostLisa Birnbach, and me
Playboy‘s Conor Hogan and Maria Malanowski
My ex-Spy mate George Kalogerakis, now of the Times
Larry Doyle, author of I Love You, Beth Cooper, with me
and Playboy editor Chip Rowe
Writer Daniel Radosh, and Playboy editors Scott Alexander
and Steve Randall
Bunnies Sandra Hubby and Stephanie Heinrich and me
My hosts, Chris Napolitano and Christie Hefner of Playboy,
with me and Jim Kelly, Managing Editor of Time Inc.
Colleagues from Playboy: Josh Robertson, Rocky Rakovic,
Matt DeMazza, me, Vivian Colon, Matt Stiegbegel
Playboy’s Jennifer Ryan Jones, photographer Harry Benson,
Chris Napolitano, and Playboy‘s Joseph DeAcetis